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by ARLnow.com — April 29, 2015 at 9:45 am 1,673 0

Polling place in Arlington (file photo)Over the weekend, a straw poll was conducted at a birthday party and fundraiser for County Board member Libby Garvey (D).

The results, which reflect the preferences of Garvey’s supporters, broke heavily for “crowd favorite” Christian Dorsey.

With the exception of the bottom two of the field, the results are an inverse of first quarter fundraising figures.

The straw poll results are:

  • Christian Dorsey — 43
  • Peter Fallon — 15
  • Katie Cristol — 15
  • Andrew Schneider — 8
  • James Lander — 4
  • Bruce Wiljanen — 3

A primary will be held in the race June 9. With just over a month left, ARLnow is conducting its own unscientific poll about reader preferences for the six Democratic candidates.

If you are a likely voter, which of the candidates do you prefer? Given the two available seats, pick two candidates.

by ARLnow.com — April 24, 2015 at 10:00 am 3,092 0

Sign at the Rosslyn ChipotleIt was revealed this week that Chipotle has begun offering an officially-sanctioned delivery service.

The food deliveries are being offered in a number of U.S. metro areas, including the D.C. area, through online delivery service Postmates.

While the idea of an on-demand burrito may sound appetizing, the cost of the service is less so. USA Today reported that the cost starts at $5, on top of the cost of the food. Re/code, which broke the story, was being asked for $12 in delivery and service fees, bringing the cost of an $8 order to $20 delivered.

ARLnow.com tested the ordering process using the Chipotle in the Pentagon City mall and was asked for $7.16 in fees for delivery to an address a couple of blocks from the mall, nearly doubling the cost of a steak burrito.

Can you see yourself ever using this delivery service for your Chipotle meal?

by Larry Roberts — April 23, 2015 at 1:45 pm 925 0

Progressive Voice is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the individual author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

Larry RobertsThe Arlington we enjoy today is a county where population is growing, our successful schools are attracting many more children, single family homes in our suburban neighborhoods are in high demand, we have the highest percentage of millennials in the country, our finances are rated among the best in America by rating agencies, and we enjoy a range of housing, transportation, and recreational choices due to wise investments by past generations of county leaders.

While we have challenges facing our commercial sector, in housing affordability across many income levels, and meeting the needs of our schools, we are a success by almost any measure.

We did not achieve this success by chance. It is due to visionary leadership driven by commitments to core values and investments in our future. There is no better example of such visionary leadership than Ellen Bozman, who served Arlington for 24 years on the County Board, on various regional organizations, and in civic groups.

Leaders like Ellen knew the importance of a vibrant commercial sector that reduces reliance on homeowner taxes, transit oriented development, providing opportunities for those in need, and a focus on quality of life.

I was reminded of Ellen’s contributions on a recent walk through Ballston.

There, amidst restaurants, hotels, office buildings, the Virginia Tech Research Center, retail outlets and residences, I found Ellen’s Trace. The trace is an urban park that is a great spot for pedestrians to relax and consider Arlington’s past, present and future.

You can find Ellen’s Trace between 800 N. Glebe Road (a distinctive building that features a diamond canopy and rounded glass façade reminiscent of its predecessor Bob Peck Chevrolet) and The Jordan, which provides 90 units of affordable housing. Such a joint project combining commercial sector success with housing affordability was consistent with Ellen’s approach.

Ellen had the gift to see Arlington for what it could be, and worked hard to make that vision happen. She maximized her influence through her ability to work with others to forge compromises and build partnerships within Arlington and across the region.

The commemorative markers in Ellen’s Trace describe Ellen Bozman’s contributions in ways that capture her well:

Affordable Housing: Ellen Bozman believed the opportunity to live in Arlington should be available to all. She was a strong advocate for affordable housing and worked hard to preserve and produce housing opportunities for low- and moderate-income residents. 

Health and Welfare: Ellen Bozman worked tirelessly to protect and care for the most vulnerable in the community. In the 1960s, she pioneered Arlington’s extended day program for children of working parents. She also championed day care for the frail elderly and the creation of Arlington’s first nursing homes.

Human Rights: Ellen Bozman fought hard for the rights of others. In the 1950s, she worked to eliminate school segregation in Virginia and provided support to the families of the first black children to enter a desegregated school in Arlington.

Local Government: Ellen Bozman was deeply committed to public service. An inspiration to many, she held numerous leadership roles, including 24 years on the Arlington County Board (1974-1997). She believed government should be progressive, open, inclusive, and improve the lives of others. 

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by Mark Kelly — April 23, 2015 at 1:00 pm 689 0

The Right Note is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

Mark KellyWith the passage of the budget, the average property tax burden will rise in Arlington by 4 percent. Last year, it increased by 4.6 percent, even with the rate cut.

John Vihstadt summed up his first year on the County Board with this statement, “the problem is not that we are taxing too little but that we are spending too much.” After a year on the Board and looking at how Arlington budgets, Vihstadt understands that more could be done to spend our tax dollars more wisely.

With big ticket projects now shelved or eliminated altogether, other areas of the budget should be subjected to greater scrutiny. It may not be as newsworthy to find $100,000 examples of wasteful spending as a $1 million bus stop, but they are equally as important. It is one of the reasons Vihstadt pushed so hard for the independent audit function in Arlington.

Vihstadt also called for re-evaluating how we build our budgets. Fiscal watchdogs agree. It is no secret that I believe Arlington should revamp the revenue estimating process and start returning closeout funds to taxpayers rather than always using them to increase spending.

But, Mr. Vihstadt cannot do it alone. It is clear from statements from other Board Members, there is no rush to lower tax rates again any time soon. With two seats open on the Board this fall, it is time for another fiscally responsible Republican or Independent to join Vihstadt, perhaps even two.

It is not just the two Board seats that are open. Each of Arlington’s Constitutional Offices are up for re-election as well, including the Clerk of the Circuit Court, which is elected once every eight years.

Electoral competition is healthy and brings greater accountability. But, voters will not be able to truly examine the job each of these elected officials are doing unless a challenger emerges to contest each office.

For years, qualified, community-minded Republicans and Independents did not step up to the plate and run in Arlington. The conventional wisdom was that the Democrats’ nominee would secure the general election victory. Last year’s results made it clear that voters are open to a clean slate and will give them a fair look.

Mark Kelly is a former Arlington GOP Chairman and two-time Republican candidate for Arlington County Board.

by Peter Rousselot — April 23, 2015 at 12:15 pm 1,318 0

Peter’s Take is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

Peter RousselotThe School Board recently voted 3 to 2 to push forward with its controversial 1:1 initiative — the plan to give every student their own laptop or tablet for educational purposes.

What should the Board do now to address the many justified criticisms leveled at its 1:1 initiative?

DISCUSSION

The School Board should direct Superintendent Patrick Murphy to hold a series of public meetings, beginning in mid-May, among concerned parents, teachers, APS administrators, and the general public, to discuss collaboratively the most critical issues that have been raised.

APS needs uniform developmentally appropriate guidelines in areas such as:

Teacher training/professional development

One of the most serious criticisms of the 1:1 initiative is its complete lack of vision or goals to train teachers on how best to integrate the devices into curricular offerings. To address this deficiency, the public meetings should discuss in detail APS’ plans to:

  • set clear and measurable goals;
  • give devices to schools in the summer, not in the fall;
  • have quality apps that are equitably available on devices at all schools and aligned with curricular goals;
  • use a curriculum that contains expectations for the devices to be used to attain a goal, with assessments that follow this pattern: using the iPad/Macbook and “X” software, students will …;
  • require professional development that would help teachers use “X” software to achieve that desired outcome;
  • sustain professional development so that teachers could go back to review and re-learn (could be online);
  • evaluate appropriately teacher and student usage.

Individual total daily screen time on all devices/safety

Particularly at the elementary level, parents are very concerned about the total number of hours per day (at school, at home and on transportation) that their children will be in front of a screen. This issue needs a collaborative solution. System-wide rules are needed for something as simple as “don’t use the camera to harass or embarrass your fellow students.” Filters should be placed on iPads to block inappropriate content.

Transparency in budgeting

Teachers are NOT issued MacBook Airs or iPads. This seriously interferes with their ability to develop detailed, evidence based curricular plans, but there is no provision in the APS budget to provide these devices to teachers. Nor is there any meaningful, long-term annualized budget estimate of total hardware and software costs. Accurate total costs are essential to enable the community to weigh the costs of the 1:1 initiative against the benefits.

CONCLUSION

APS badly flunked the transparency test in the roll-out of this initiative. Technology and devices are critical. APS must prepare our children to use them. But, the current 1:1 initiative isn’t the only way.

APS should candidly acknowledge that this initiative has flunked and needs to be re-booted.

Peter Rousselot is a former member of the Central Committee of the Democratic Party of Virginia and former chair of the Arlington County Democratic Committee.

by Peter Rousselot — April 16, 2015 at 2:30 pm 945 0

Peter’s Take is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

Peter Rousselot

What are the major lessons we should take away from:

Arlington County needs a new arts policy

Arlington’s current arts policy was adopted on December 8, 1990.  In a column I wrote two years ago about Signature’s $250,000 first bailout, I called on Arlington to update its arts policy. Last December, at the time of Signature’s $5 million second bailout, the Manager promised that Arlington would update its arts policy. It hasn’t happened. Why must we lurch from bailout crisis to bailout crisis without a new policy?

The new arts policy should reflect current fiscal realities

Arlington’s current arts policy was adopted a quarter century ago. It may have served us well for a long time. Parts of the policy may be just as valid today as when those parts were adopted. But, it is now long past time for a new policy because Arlington is facing new issues such as the capacity crisis in our public schools.

Current fiscal realities dictate that core services should receive priority

I strongly favor continued public support for the arts with our tax dollars. But, the arts are not a core government service in the same way as schools, roads, sewers, and public safety. Because the arts are not core government services like those, the County Board should fund a higher percentage share of the “wish lists” for schools, roads, sewers, and public safety than the share the Board funds for the arts.

Funding the arts based upon “economic development” should be reconsidered

It’s a very slippery slope to justify the costs of funding an arts project based on the project’s alleged contribution to economic development. The county has entered into some of its most ill-advised deals, like those with the Artisphere and Signature, by trying to justify those deals as important to the economic development of Rosslyn and Shirlington, respectively.

It would be better and more forthright to provide public taxpayer funding based strictly on artistic merit, relying on the recommendations of a qualified citizens’ advisory group. Even when artistic merit is the sole criterion, Arlington should only enter into agreements that cap Arlington’s financial exposure.

Peter Rousselot is a former member of the Central Committee of the Democratic Party of Virginia and former chair of the Arlington County Democratic Committee.

by Progressive Voice — April 16, 2015 at 1:45 pm 641 0

Progressive Voice is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the individual author and do not necessarily reflect the views of their organization or ARLnow.com. This week’s author is Gerry Collins.

Gerry CollinsOne of Arlington’s core values has been its support for public education — where all children can learn and a premium is placed on the quality of classroom instruction. The success of our school system is part of what makes Arlington an attractive place to live and that success has led to a growing school population.

That growth has led to budget challenges given that the county’s economic growth has not kept pace with school population growth. That is why it has been fascinating to observe the course of events that have brought us to the brink of a final, balanced budget for Arlington Public Schools.

Only four months ago in early December, the projected budget deficit for the Arlington Public Schools was $25.3 million. As adopted on April 10, the School Board’s proposed FY 2016 budget requests an additional $6.2 million from the County Board when that Board adopts the county’s overall budget.

It is interesting to reflect on the process that has brought that additional funding request down to the current $6.2 million. The process has consumed many hours on the part of many players, including the superintendent, the APS staff in Finance and Management Services, and the School Board, as well as allied groups including the Budget Advisory Committee, the Schools Committee of the Arlington County Civic Federation, several employee groups, and a host of parents and citizens who have weighed in on various components of the proposed budget.

The effort to reduce the projected budget deficit was led initially by Superintendent Patrick Murphy who, with the support of the APS finance staff, used revised expenditure calculations as well as savings from the December close-out report to present a proposed budget in February that had lowered the budget gap to $13.6 million.

To close that gap, the superintendent’s proposed budget identified additional reductions organized into three levels, or tiers. Tier 1, the first to be reduced if needed, included $4.8 million in central office efficiencies as well as payments from “one-time” money — that is, funds that cannot be used for ongoing expenses.

Tier 2, the next line of reductions if needed, included $5.1 million through reduced funding for two of the remaining four elementary schools that have a shortened instructional day on Wednesdays, as well as savings derived from increasing the planning factor for K-12 class size by one student per classroom. Tier 3, including funding for the other two schools and a 33 percent cut in the projected salary increase, amounted to $3.7 million in potential budget savings.

Some good news came from Richmond at the conclusion of the General Assembly in March, with the notice of increases in state funding amounting to $1.7 million. This came mainly from a statewide contribution to salary increases for teachers and a reduction in the Virginia Retirement System rate of 0.44 percent. This reduced the budget gap from $13.6 million to $11.9 million.

Additionally, the County Board’s decision to take a more deliberate approach with regard to the decision whether to construct a new elementary school on the Thomas Jefferson Middle School site — pushing back the CIP timeline for that school — provided a little silver lining in the form of $1.4 million in savings on debt service since the spring bond sale would be reduced by $28 million. This lowered the projected budget deficit to $10.5 million.

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by Mark Kelly — April 16, 2015 at 1:00 pm 509 0

The Right Note is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

Mark KellyEach year, somewhere around the time in between when your federal and state taxes are due here in Virginia, the Arlington County Board passes its budget. While the final vote will be on Tuesday, many of the decisions will be made at tonight’s final work session where the Board will “mark-up” the budget with the county manager.

Unlike Congress, Arlington is bound by law to pass a budget that is balanced. Many of us are unhappy with the resulting tax increase we pay each and every year, and we may argue our debt levels need to see some additional scrutiny. But, at least our Board must be prepared for the consequences of a vote to raise taxes in order to pay for any additional spending and debt service they propose.

One item in particular to watch on Tuesday, is whether the Board will adopt the recommendation of the county manager, and most fiscal watchdogs, to end the failed Artisphere experiment. It was a prime example of over-promising and under-delivering on an unneeded vanity project.

We will also know whether the Board will raise our taxes, just not as much, by slightly lowering our tax rate again. Will they vote to raise our taxes by holding the rate level? Or, will they completely reverse course from last year and raise our taxes even more than anticipated by passing the rate as advertised?

A safe bet is the Board will hold the rates level. Based on the fact that once again very few showed up to protest the tax rate increase at the late March public hearing, most Arlingtonians seem resigned to believe they have little real say in the decision.

One of the handful of those who spoke at the hearing did remind the Board that many Arlingtonians find that their incomes are simply not rising as fast as their taxes. And, of course that many in Arlington are retired and on fixed incomes. His larger point was that too many Arlingtonians who have owned their homes for years are finding the taxes increasingly difficult to pay.

In his remarks, he also called for a cap on real estate taxes for long-time Arlington residents. It is an interesting idea that merits a second look, particularly for those aging in place on fixed incomes.

And finally, the Board’s Saturday agenda includes a proposal to reduce the penalty if a real estate tax bill is paid less than 30 days after its due. This proposal to lower the penalty for those who pay within 30 days from 10 percent to 5 percent makes sense. Provide an incentive to pay on time but also a grace period of sorts for those who may have missed the deadline for what could be a very good reason.

Mark Kelly is a former Arlington GOP Chairman and two-time Republican candidate for Arlington County Board.

by ARLnow.com — April 16, 2015 at 10:15 am 2,366 0

A dog (photo courtesy Rena Schild)In Arlington County, residents who own dogs must pay a for a license.

The license costs $10 per year or $25 for every three years. Despite the abundance of dogs in Arlington, the tax only brought in $59,664 from about 7,000 licensed dogs during a recent fiscal year, according to the Sun Gazette.

That has prompted enquiries from County Board member John Vihstadt.

It also led the president of the Arlington County Taxpayers Association, who fervently advocates for lower taxes, to suggest that the fee might be raised to help pay for the county’s dog parks.

What do you think should be done with the county’s dog license fee?

by ARLnow.com — April 15, 2015 at 9:15 am 1,098 0

MoneyToday is Tax Day across the nation. Meanwhile, next week, the Arlington County Board will set the Fiscal Year 2016 real estate tax rate.

Last year, in advance of the Board’s FY 2015 budget vote, we asked what you think about the county’s tax rate.

Only 6.5 percent of respondents said the tax rate should be raised, while 27 percent said the tax rate should be held steady and 66.5 percent said it should be lowered.

(The Board ultimately lowered the rate from $1.006 per $100 in value to $0.996.)

This year, the Board advertised a tax rate of $1.011, giving itself the flexibility to raise the rate by up to 1.5 cents. Such a tax hike could be used to help fully fund schools, which are facing a $6.2 million funding gap.

On the other hand, because of higher residential assessments this year, the Board may consider lowering the rate to ease the increasing tax burden on homeowners.

What do you think should be done this year?

by Mark Kelly — April 9, 2015 at 12:45 pm 1,031 0

The Right Note is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

Mark KellyVirginia ranked 12th for Economic Outlook when compared to the other 49 states in the latest “Rich States, Poor States” study released by the American Legislative Exchange Council. It does not sound too bad — holding on to a spot in the top 25 percent of the nation.

The study looks at 15 factors, from labor policies to tax rates that historically predict economic success. But, it looks like we may be headed in the wrong direction in the Commonwealth.

Last year, Virginia ranked 11th. The year before Governor McAuliffe took office, we were fifth.

The governor can take some of the responsibility for the decline. So too can the Democrats who controlled the Virginia Senate from the 2007 elections until the resignation of Sen. Puckett last year. But, Republicans have firmly held sway over the House of Delegates for some time and shared in the policy-making decisions that brought us to this point.

Some may discount this ranking because ALEC is known as a conservative organization. So, how do we fare in other rankings for comparison?

In Forbes latest ranking, Virginia took the fourth spot overall in best states to do business. However, if you look at the portion of the ranking called “Growth Prospects” we ranked 33rd.

CNBC ranked us in a tie for eighth, but down three spots from the year before.

Chief Executive ranked us at 11th, down four spots from the year before.

Virginia is by no means in dire straits, but the trendline in these rankings should concern us. Our governor and General Assembly certainly have work to do if our goal is to be No. 1.

In the Chief Executive study, one CEO was quoted as saying, “Virginia has a significant level of local taxes, particularly in jurisdictions in Northern Virginia that constantly nick away at profitability. While the state tax structure is low, the business property taxes, taxes on gross business income and other related taxes of the local jurisdictions eat away at [revenue].”

Arlington Board Members have publicly recognized the fact that we cannot count on federal government spending to fuel future local economic growth. The proximity to our nation’s capital will always be our home court advantage but new businesses do take note of how our local taxing decisions impact their bottom line.

It is past time to make Arlington a more inviting place for businesses to locate. First step for the Board, ignore the calls for a property tax rate increase. Next step, get rid of the BPOL.

Mark Kelly is a former Arlington GOP Chairman and two-time Republican candidate for Arlington County Board.

by Peter Rousselot — April 9, 2015 at 11:45 am 565 0

Peter’s Take is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

Peter RousselotIn a recent Progressive Voice column, the author observed:

“If we want to move forward with new school construction, family-friendly parks, a properly staffed police department, and a safety net for those less fortunate, we must continue to encourage the presence of a strong and civic-minded business community.”

I agree. Recognizing the substantial regional economic headwinds that are beyond the control of county government, there are some concrete steps that our government can take to encourage the presence of a strong and civic-minded business community.

Arlington Economic Development

This past December, the county hired Victor Hoskins as the new Director of Arlington Economic Development (AED). He has an impressive résumé. He could bring a much-needed fresh perspective to enable Arlington to attract and retain businesses.

However, Mr. Hoskins has joined a county staff whose past practices and budget priorities raise a whole host of questions, including:

  • Does Arlington do any sort of exit interviews when it learns of businesses leaving Arlington? If so, what are the most common comments and lessons learned?
  • Starbucks is planning to open soon on Columbia Pike at Penrose Square. Chipotle also is close to signing a lease for a Pike location. What is AED planning to do to capitalize on these developments? What specific Columbia Pike business development initiatives does AED plan in FY 2016?
  • A recent Washington Post story highlighted Monday Properties’ empty Rosslyn office building at 1812 N. Moore Street. The story quoted a company spokesman as saying “he has not considered lowering the rents he’s asking.”  “Pricing has not been an issue,” he claimed. Say what? How can we ask county taxpayers to contribute millions more in public funding for AED’s economic development efforts when private developers are unwilling to respond to market forces by reducing their rents?

County Staff’s Business Unfriendly Retail Plan

Earlier this year, only the vigilance of a small number of citizen activists, combined with the strong opposition of the Arlington Civic Federation, prevented the adoption of a County-staff-proposed “Arlington County Retail Plan.”

The staff plan contained overly-prescriptive, business unfriendly provisions, including:

  • Allowing only a limited number of options for street-level retail (such as preferring restaurants while banning personal services) from prime locations;
  • Using detailed maps specifying a small set of retail uses supposedly appropriate for each indicated spot on the map, while offering no discernable demographic or economic analysis to support the designations.

Conclusion

The County Board must help AED director Hoskins by adopting new policies that

  • root out existing County staff practices and procedures that discourage business, and
  • encourage private developers and other businesses to participate fairly in addressing the challenges facing Arlington

Peter Rousselot is a former member of the Central Committee of the Democratic Party of Virginia and former chair of the Arlington County Democratic Committee.

by Kip Malinosky — April 9, 2015 at 11:00 am 1,344 0

Progressive Voice is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the individual author and do not necessarily reflect the views of their organization or ARLnow.com.

Kip MalinoskyHousing affordability is one of the most critical issues of our time. It is indispensable to achieving Arlington’s vision of an inclusive, sustainable and world-class community.

Around the country, communities with good jobs, great schools, and low crime rates almost always face an affordable housing crisis. Arlington is no exception. Despite our county’s award-winning efforts to preserve market-rate affordable housing, our supply has sharply declined. According to a recently released study, affordable housing units have dropped from 23,500 units in 2000 to 10,000 units in 2013, due primarily to increasing rents.

Virtually everyone is affected when a community is no longer affordable to a diverse array of residents. Housing affordability allows seniors to age in place, young professionals to start their careers, and working-class employees to live near their jobs. Single family homes in Arlington are already too expensive for many middle-class families. I

f present trends continue, increasing numbers of people will no longer be able to live in Arlington. This is a loss not only for those directly impacted, but also the larger community.

Businesses depend on having an economically diverse workforce. Localities that are not limited to the wealthy and upper incomes have a competitive advantage in attracting top businesses. A Center for Housing Policy study finds “In a national survey of more than 300 companies conducted by Harris Interactive, more than half (55 percent) of the largest companies with more than 100 employees acknowledge an insufficient level of affordable housing in their proximity.”

Companies have often acted on this understanding by relocating to localities offering broader housing options. With an office vacancy rate around 25 in Arlington, we will need housing that is more affordable to help attract new businesses.

Let’s break this down. Arlington’s tax revenues are split almost equally between the commercial and homeowner sectors. A rising commercial vacancy rate will require either higher homeowner taxes or substantial cuts in county services, including our schools. With our schools projected to add more than 6,000 students over the next 10 years, we need a strong economic development plan — including housing affordability — to accommodate such growth in school population.

Our modern, post-World War II economy was the envy of the world and had at its economic and moral foundations plans to ensure that people had an affordable place to live. In his 1944 State of the Union Address, President Roosevelt articulated the “right of every family to a decent home.” The American Dream has been built on the premise that hard work will lead to success. That success depends, however, on ladders to success being available to workers.

As Emily Badger at the Washington Post asked, “Why do some communities have more ladders for opportunity than other communities?” Affordable housing, especially housing that is close to good public transit, is one of those ladders. How can Arlington ensure a supply of affordable housing when market demand is rapidly eliminating it?

First we must protect the supply of committed affordable housing units, which is currently at 7,000. We can’t lose any more. Second, we should use the power of zoning to foster incentives for more dedicated affordable housing units. Third, we should use this power creatively and thoughtfully.

Finally, we need to bring to bear the power of the private sector to help create affordable housing. We already get $3 of private investment for every $1 of public investment in affordable housing. Perhaps we could do even more. New York City is pursuing a partnership with developers to create 40,000 new units of affordable housing. Through preservation, zoning policy, and partnerships we can toward making sure that Arlington remains a diverse, sustainable and affordable place to live.

Kip Malinosky is Chair of the Arlington County Democratic Committee. A version of this column originally appeared in the ACDC Voice.

by ARLnow.com — April 6, 2015 at 10:20 am 5,636 0

A towing standoff outside Ray's Hell BurgerTowing in Arlington has again been in the news lately.

Last week a driver with Advanced Towing hooked a car at the CVS parking lot on Columbia Pike, before realizing that there were children inside. The driver unhooked the car but the car’s owner still told his story to a local TV station.

After that story came out, other towing complaints have emerged in our comments section and in our forums.

Towing has historically been a hot topic in Arlington. Last year we reported that food delivery vehicles were being towed off private property by Advanced. In past years it was towing fee increases, towing disputes and crimes against tow companies that have made headlines.

Then, last night, more towing drama: ESPN sportscaster Britt McHenry had her car towed by Advanced during dinner in Arlington. She was not happy about it.

Apparently McHenry wasn’t the only television personality to be towed from that lot in Clarendon recently.

Throughout it all, there’s typically a debate: are tow truck drivers predators who employ shady methods to tow your car away and collect your cash? Or are they simply doing the job that they’re hired to do: protecting private property owners from drivers who park on their lots against the property’s rules?

Inherent in that question is another question: when the towing company does mistakenly tow a car that parked without violating the rules, is it an honest mistake or a cynical “mistake.”

Putting aside the above cases in the Hunan lot, sometimes the emotions of being towed can cloud a simple fact: that you were, in fact, violating the property owner’s parking rules, no matter what was in the car or how short your intended stop.

What do you think?

by Progressive Voice — April 2, 2015 at 1:45 pm 856 0

Progressive Voice is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the individual author and do not necessarily reflect the views of their organization or ARLnow.com. The following column was written by Paul Friedman.

Paul FriedmanLast week, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence signed the “The Religious Freedom Restoration Act” into law. The resulting outrage forced him to go on Sunday’s ABC News show “This Week” and attempt to clarify the law’s meaning and dispel the belief that it was discriminatory. He was unsuccessful.

As The Indianapolois Star reported, “Stephanopoulos asked Pence six times whether the new law would allow a business to discriminate against gay couples, and Pence ducked the question six times.” When asked about supporting a law banning discrimination against gays and lesbians, Pence said “that was not on [his] agenda.”

Within days of the law’s passage, companies and groups began cancelling Indiana events. Singer Audra McDonald announced she would devote the proceeds from her upcoming concert to a gay advocacy group. Angie’s List put an expensive expansion on hold. The band Wilco cancelled concert dates. A major technology conference announced that it would relocate to another state. Indianapolis’ Republican mayor called for repeal of the legislation.

Companies from Marriott, Apple, Levi’s and Yelp to sports organizations such as the NCAA, NBA, and NASCAR voiced opposition to the law and emphasized their commitment to diversity and inclusion.

Fortunately, Arlington County has had diversity and inclusion as core values for many years, and those values will help Arlington in its efforts to attract the businesses that will be at the heart of the 21st century economy.

While Virginia had previously passed a state constitutional amendment banning gay marriage and kept Arlington from expanding LGBT rights and establishing benefits for same-sex couples, the Commonwealth’s current leaders have recognized the importance of non-discrimination to the success of the state’s economy.

Since January 2014, when Gov. Terry McAuliffe, Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam, and Attorney General Mark Herring were sworn into office, Virginia has turned a corner on human rights. All supported marriage equality in their campaigns.

Almost immediately after taking office, Attorney General Herring determined, based on federal Constitutional principles, that his office could no longer defend the Commonwealth’s position opposing marriage equality. Instead, his office argued successfully in court that Virginia’s same-sex marriage ban violated the U.S. Constitution.

When the U.S. Supreme Court decided not to review the 4th Circuit’s decision to that effect, marriage equality became the law of the land in Virginia. Governor McAuliffe moved quickly to implement the court ruling by Executive Order. In doing so, the governor emphasized the importance of marriage equality to the growth of Virginia’s economy.

“The highest priority of state government should be to guarantee every person’s right to live, learn, work, and do business, regardless of their race, gender, creed or sexual orientation … Same-sex marriage is now legal in Virginia,” McAuliffe said. “This is a historic and long overdue moment for our Commonwealth and our country … An open and welcoming environment is imperative to grow as a Commonwealth, and to build a new Virginia economy that will attract vital businesses, innovative entrepreneurs, and thriving families.

This week, Governor McAuliffe put out the welcome mat for those who felt that Indiana’s new law was bad for business.  (more…)

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